Oct 16, 3018

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Oct 18, 2018

Young Mergansers

Common Mergansers in the Mill River behind my apartment. The white streaks connecting their eyes to their bills mark them as youngsters, hatched earlier this year. Male mergansers look like females when young and develop their distinctive dark green head and stark black & white body in their second year—but these two look different enough that I wonder if they aren't brother and sister.

Photos taken with a new (to me) Astro-Tech AT65Q telescope, working as a 420mm f/6.5 telephoto lens. Noticeably sharper than my 400mm f/5.6 ED Nikkor, even when that lens is stopped down to its optimum f/11 aperture.

Sep 21, 2018

Chalk Art 2018

Artists at work in the 9th annual Chalk Art Festival in Northampton, MA, on Sept. 14, 2018. Three inches of rain the following week washed away most of the chalk, but the art still lives in photos here.

Jun 17, 2018

Professor Longhair

Henry Roeland Byrd, better known as Professor Longhair, cemented his reputation as a piano legend of New Orleans with one song he first recorded in 1949, "Go to the Mardi Gras," which is replayed every year in the city when Mardi Gras time rolls around. You can give a listen here:   youtube.com/watch?v=0wAMr3V5lN4

'Fess had a few more hits in the 1960s—notably, "Big Chief" and "Tipitina"—but he fell into obscurity as the 60s progressed. In 1970 some blues aficionados found him working as a janitor in a record shop, nursed him back to health, and got him into a recording studio. His performance at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 1971 was wildly received and marked the second coming of his career. In the years that followed he played Newport, Montreux, toured Europe, played a concert hosted by Paul McCartney aboard the Queen Mary, and was hailed as a great guru mentor by Dr. John, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, James Booker, Huey Smith and others. In 1979 he recorded tracks for a lively & brilliant new album, Crawfish Fiesta, but sadly, he passed away in January 1980, shortly before the album was released.

In the spring of 1975, Fess played a concert on the blacktop out back of my high school in New Orleans—Ben Franklin Senior High, which was then located uptown, in the old Carrollton Courthouse, down by the river near the intersection of S. Carrollton and St. Charles Avenues. I was one of the yearbook photographers and shot a couple rolls of film of the event, but the pictures were too late to make it into the yearbook and got filed away, unused.

Recently, seeing news items about the Professor (2018 being the 100th anniversary of his birth), I remembered the pictures and found the proof sheets—rolls 57 & 58—and negatives which had been waiting patiently in glassine envelopes for 43 years. Carefully digitized, the negatives have very satisfying sharpness and tonal detail, and with the images on the computer I was able to Do Them Up in ways I could only dream of back in darkroom days. Click the picture above to see the results. (And proofs of the full collection of photos from the event can be seen here: photos.app.goo.gl/4XA9vZYSLLM8sS6J8)

I scoured the web trying to identify the band members. The drummer is Edward "Sheba" Kimbrough, the guitarist is "Big Will" Harvey, and I believe the bass player is his son, Will Harvey, Jr.

New Orleans in the 1970s...a happenin' place to grow up. The band at the senior prom the year before was the Meters!

Further reading, etc.

New Yorker article, "The Still-Burning Genius of Professor Longhair":

Fess talking about learning piano, and playing "Tipitina":

"Big Chief," from Montreux Jazz Fest 1973 (w. the Meters)
A rough recording, but an outrageous performance!!

Brief interview from 1969:


Fess with the Meters on PBS Soundstage, 1974:
Walk Right In   youtube.com/watch?v=ET_ZoFpsutA
Whole Lotta Lovin'   youtube.com/watch?v=CK0sI5WcORI
Everyday I Have the Blues  youtube.com/watch?v=zOcncAwlyT4
Tipitina   youtube.com/watch?v=Yj6AXu7_psY
Big Chief   youtube.com/watch?v=I09FChrTDJw

More with the Meters:
Hey Little Girl   youtube.com/watch?v=7yYJPqKlEFo
Bald Head   youtube.com/watch?v=HZNxSOQtQp8

A track with same band as in photos (plus harmonica):
Mojo Working   youtube.com/watch?v=Jp_xuBm7nRs

Rock 'n' Roll Gumbo CD
Crawfish Fiesta CD
'Fess Up DVD

Tech notes: The original pictures were taken using Nikon FTn and Canon FTb cameras with 50 and 200mm lenses, shot on Kodak Plus-X film which was push-processed to EI 200. The negatives were digitized by photographing them with a DSLR camera equipped with a macro lens.

Apr 22, 2018

Common Goldeneye

A new visitor to the Mill Pond in town, a Common Goldeneye. This one must have been hatched last year; when he matures, his head will be deep green and body jet black & white.

Feb 16, 2018

Cold Duck!

On the last day of January, I spotted a male Merganser in the barely-unfrozen river out back. If you look closely, you can see bits of ice stuck to his feathers. This is the earliest I've ever seen Mergansers in the river.

Jan 21, 2018

Earthrise 1

      Oh my God, look at that picture over there! There's the Earth comin' up.
      Wow, is that pretty!

Those were the first words out of Bill Anders's mouth when he saw the Earth coming 'round the bend as Apollo 8 orbited the moon on December 24, 1968. He quickly snapped a black & white picture with the camera he'd been using to photograph the moon's surface, and then called to his colleagues for color film. It took a while for them to find the film, and the Earth kept moving away from the lunar horizon, but a minute later he snapped two more frames in color which became the iconic image of the planet known as "Earthrise." The view that first struck Anders, though—of the Earth just slipping into view—was recorded only in black & white.

A couple years ago I made a "2K" composite of the color and black & white images, but earlier this month I discovered higher-resolution 4 and 5K scans of the original 70mm frames and set about making a new version. The black & white frame is very crisp and, when stacked with the color frames, can be sharpened to a remarkable degree. The picture above is the result: Bill Anders's first black & white photo, with colors on the Earth supplied by the two later color shots. The lunar surface is from the black & white image, tinted slightly and brightness-adjusted to match the appearance of the moon as seen in modern DSCOVR satellite pictures of the moon transiting the Earth.

The classic Earthrise photo is usually rotated so the moon's edge is horizontal, but Apollo 8 was orbiting above the equator of the moon, and Anders has always displayed his copy of the picture with the lunar limb vertical: they were coming around the moon, which was on their right. In this alignment north is up, and you can see Africa in its familiar orientation on the mid-right side of the Earth, and South America on the left edge. (Use the mouse wheel to zoom in after clicking on the photo above.)

Christmas Eve 2018 will be the 50th anniversary of this picture's creation—the first time a human being ever laid eyes on our home planet sliding into view around the horizon of another world. I'm a bit early for the anniversary, but I think it's never too soon to look at the Earth and see it as something precious, a rare and beautiful haven for life, bobbing in a vast sea of brutal inhospitality. Everything we are, everything we will be in the near future is there, on that pretty blue marble set in emptiness and peeking around the lifeless gray expanse of the moon.

Rotated, uncropped, higher-res, and print-ready versions:

Classic Earthrise:

NASA recreation video (with Apollo 8 dialog):

Smithsonian article about the making of the photos:

DSCOVR lunar transit images (moon color reference):

Earth photos from the ISS (Earth color reference):

Source images (courtesy NASA):
      B&W frame: https://archive.org/details/as08-13-2329
      1st color: https://archive.org/details/as08-14-2383
      2nd color: https://archive.org/details/as08-14-2384

Images processed with Paint Shop Pro 6, Canon Digital Photo Professional 3, Registax 6 (wavelets sharpening), Affinity Photo (scratch & dust removal), and FastStone Image Viewer (resizing & jpeg conversion).


About the title: An earlier photo, taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 in 1966, also shows the Earth near the lunar horizon and is sometimes described as an Earthrise, but it's actually an "Earthset" rather than a rise: the spacecraft was heading behind the moon as it shot the picture, causing the Earth to sink below the horizon as time progressed (though no one was on board to witness this). I believe the Apollo 8 photo above really is the first Earthrise picture.

The Apollo 8 source images are in the public domain; my processing work on those images is released via a Creative Commons CC By 2.0 license. I don't care whether you include attribution for the processing, though; I suggest you credit the image to "Apollo 8 / NASA," with a link to this page (https://jw9c.blogspot.com/2018/01/earthrise-1.html) if convenient.